Faithful of St. Andrews,
As we enter more fully into the Nativity Fast we also enter more and more into the anticipation of the Nativity of our Lord. This time of preparation for the feast of our Lord is a reminder for us that this life is to be a preparation for His second and glorious coming again.
Each fast and feast in the Church is for us an opportunity to enter more deeply into our continual preparation in this life for the Feast which does not end. When we feel the struggle and the tug of our flesh within the fast we are able to use that to offer to God as a confession of our weakness and our brokenness. When we find ourselves unable to love the person in front of us, or have thoughts of bitterness and anger in our hearts, or when we are not able to keep the fast then we have the opportunity to come before God in humility and express our need and dependence on Him. Then when He comes to us, as He will soon in His Nativity, we can proclaim with joy as the angels did, witnessed by the shepherds, “Glory to God in the Highest! And on earth peace good will toward men!”.
The following passages from St. Theophan the Recluse gives us a picture of this anticipation and the fulfillment that we have before us:
A king promises freedom to a man who is imprisoned in a dungeon and bound with fetters. The prisoner waits a day, then another, then months, and years. He sees no fulfillment of the promise, but does not lose hope, and believes in the king’s words. Finally, he sees signs that it is coming soon. His attention increases—he hears a noise; someone is approaching with cheerful words. Now the locks fall and the liberator enters. “Glory to Thee, O Lord!” the prisoner involuntarily cries. “The end of my imprisonment has arrived, and soon I will see God’s light!”
Or another incident: A sick man is covered with wounds and paralyzed in all his members. He has tried all medicines and has changed doctors many times. His endurance is exhausted, and he is ready to give himself over to despair. He is told, “There is one more very skilled doctor, who heals everyone from those very illnesses that you have. We have asked him to come, and he has promised to do so.” The patient believes them, hope springs up in him, and he waits for the promised one…. One hour passes, then another, and anxiety again begins to torment his soul. Finally, at evening, someone arrives…. The door opens, and the desired visitor enters…. “Glory to Thee, O Lord!” the sick man shouts.
We are the prisoner and the man who is sick. We are awaiting the coming of our salvation and our healing. The one imprisoned felt the reality of his confinement each day that he was kept behind bars. He felt the cold stone floor, the sparse food, the lack of air and light yet he did not lose hope. The man who was sick did not have a moment in which he did not feel the weakness of his flesh or the brokenness of his body. Yet he heard the news that there was one who could heal him and he did not give up.
We live now in this reality of struggle and anticipation. The pangs of this life and the continual fracturing of our relationships and the world around us are a constant reminder of our fallenness. We experience the hardness of hearts, the sparseness of love, and the lack of freedom. We are paralyzed at times by fears and our own fragility. Within this struggle let us not lose hope. Let us hear the hymns and the testimony of those who have gone before us and not give up. Who tell us that there is one who can set us free. There is one who can heal us. As we enter more fully into this season of the Fast let us do so with anticipation knowing that we are awaiting the coming of the One who brings peace and salvation to each one of us. That we may sing aloud “Our Savior the Dayspring of the East, hath visited us from on high, and we who are in darkness and shadow have truly found Him; for the Lord hath been born of the Virgin.” Glory to Thee O Lord!
With love in Christ Who is coming,